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Using professional curiosity in safeguarding

25 November 2022

Good advocacy practice means always being alert to the possibility of abuse.

This Safeguarding Adults Week, we’ve been sharing some of the ways VoiceAbility is improving our approach to safeguarding.

A strong, confident sense of professional curiosity is a key way for advocates to provide effective support. 

Mary’s story

Mary lives in a dementia unit, and has for some time. Her son is closely involved in her care, and in regular contact with staff at the unit.

When advocate Tamsin read Mary’s care plan, she saw some emails between Mary’s son and the unit’s manager. As Mary wasn’t taking her medication, the manager suggested using a covert medication plan - to give Mary medication without her being aware.

Although a GP had approved this plan, Tamsin couldn’t see any further mention of the covert medication plan in Mary’s notes. Making the decision to give Mary medication without her knowledge is a significant decision which should have been recorded clearly, and also raised with the team who manage safeguarding for people like Mary to ensure that decision is appropriate. But when Tamsin questioned the manager, she learned the safeguarding team had not been told. In fact, the manager said these kinds of plans weren’t used at all at that unit.

Tamsin raised her concerns. A review concluded that as Mary hadn’t come to any harm, no action was needed. However, when a second safeguarding concern about covert medication arose at the same unit, Tamsin ensured that Mary’s experience was also mentioned, and the safeguarding officer was able to see there was a repeat pattern of inconsistent medication plans and use of covert medication. This information was also passed to the Care Quality Commission.

What is professional curiosity?

For advocates, professional curiosity means looking beyond what we are told and what we can easily see. 

Through continuous professional development, we aim to support VoiceAbility advocates to feel empowered to challenge other professionals, and to ask the right questions.